Noelle Quinn spent months during the WNBA offseason pondering how to put her imprint on the Storm. 

She didn’t have time to think about these things last year when the Storm tabbed her as the franchise’s seventh head coach following Dan Quinn’s abrupt retirement after six games. 

“When you take over like that, it’s about getting to the next practice, the next game and making things as seamless as possible for the players and everybody,” said Quinn, who compiled a 16-10 record in her first Storm season, which ended with a loss in the second round of the WNBA playoffs. “Having a training camp is huge for me and my growth and allowing me that space as a young coach to have an opportunity to start from Day 1 implementing certain things. It’s not about reinventing the wheel. 

“Having the time to prep for this and having time to put my imprint on this, I value it. I’m spending this time to really think about how I can be the best version of myself for this team.” 

Seattle guard Sue Bird has a laugh between plays as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics at KeyArena in Seattle, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Bird hit two scoring milestones during the game – she broke 6,000 points and became the franchise all-time leading scorer. 206909

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The 37-year-old Quinn never envisioned her post-WNBA career would lead her to coaching. 

Growing up in Los Angeles, she imagined becoming an elementary school teacher like her mother, Golden, who taught kindergarten through sixth grade for 35 years in the L.A. school district. 

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“My mom was a superwoman for me and my sister,” Quinn said. “To me, she’s my role model and seeing her pushed me to want to be great. I just wanted to make her proud. … I make sure I represent her the way I need to.” 

Quinn, a 6-foot combo guard who ranks seventh on UCLA’s all-time scoring list, credits Pam Walker, a Bruins assistant when she played, for pushing her into coaching. 

“At various points in my short coaching career, other people saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself,” the soft-spoken Quinn said. “I can be quiet sometimes, and I didn’t know if my voice was one for coaching.” 

In 2016, Quinn became the head coach of the girls’ basketball team at Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, California, where she won four state championships, became a McDonald’s All-American and had her No. 45 jersey retired.

At the time, Quinn coached the Lady Knights during the WNBA offseason and still believed her future was in education while pursuing a career as an athletic director. 

Following a 12-year WNBA career, which included stops with five teams, Quinn retired in 2018 during her second stint with the Storm after helping Seattle to a league championship. 

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In 2019, Quinn joined Hughes’ staff as an assistant. She was promoted to associate head coach in 2020 when Hughes sat out due to medical reasons and the Storm elevated Gary Kloppenburg to head coach. 

And last year, Quinn made history when she became the first Black head coach in Storm history and the 19th Black female coach in the WNBA. 

The decision drew praise and skepticism considering Seattle, which won the WNBA title in 2020, was entrusting a championship-contending team, which included WNBA All-Stars Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, to a rookie head coach. 

“For a franchise to recognize that and have the confidence to promote that in this day and age, that told me she was special,” said first-year Storm assistant Pokey Chatman, who ranks 11th on the WNBA’s all-time coaching wins list.

Quinn’s first moves were making changes to her staff and bringing in Ebony Hoffman and Chatman who replaced longtime assistants Ryan Webb and Kloppenburg. 

“This franchise does it the right way all the time,” said Hoffman, who noted the Storm is the only WNBA team with a coaching staff comprised entirely of minorities. “They do their work and they are intentional with what they want. They set a standard and a high bar from the very beginning.” 

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Quinn also stressed the importance of filling her staff with experienced women. The 52-year-old Chatman is a trail blazer in women’s college basketball who has coached nine years in the WNBA while Hoffman, 39, begins her first year coaching in the WNBA. 

Quinn’s hires are in line with a franchise started by three prominent businesswomen, led by CEO and President Alisha Valavanis while general manager Talisa Rhea oversees day-to-day operations. 

“At every level, you see women in charge, leading, making decisions and steering the course not only for this franchise, but setting an example for other teams in this league to follow,” Bird said. “That’s so incredibly empowering. … I can assure you, she has the support of everybody in this franchise not just because she’s a woman, but because she’s deserving of this opportunity.” 

Quinn acknowledges she made mistakes last year and will continue to do so this season, which begins Friday when the Storm opens against the Minnesota Lynx. 

“What I’m finding out is, to win a championship, everything has to be aligned,” Quinn said. “Staying healthy. Playing well. All of these things have to line up and sometimes it just doesn’t.”

Storm newcomer Jantel Lavender said Quinn hasn’t changed since they played together in 2011 with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

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“Her temperament with players is second-to-none,” Lavender said. “She’s calm. She’s a players’ coach obviously because she was in that role. She’s confident. She knows what she’s talking about. I have so much confidence in her to lead this group and everybody is relinquishing that power to her because we trust her. She’s always known basketball. 

“She was always that vet that was a little quiet, but knew what she was talking about. She doesn’t have a problem challenging the vets. You need that from a coach. She’s like I want you to be the best that you can be. We understand that from her and everyone is going to go a little bit harder for her because of that.” 

Quinn understands that very few coaches, especially Black coaches with her relative lack of head-coaching experience, are entrusted with a loaded team like Seattle with championship aspirations. 

Still, Quinn will not let her win-loss record define her. 

“I can’t because I would lose my sanity and that’s just not how I’m built,” she said. “I’ve said this before: Chasing a number, I don’t find satisfaction in that. I can’t do that. I got enough gray hairs already. … Yeah, I want to win. Don’t get that confused. But on a day-to-day basis for me, to operate and be who I am, I can’t be chasing numbers. 

“I’ll chase standards. That’s not a number. … For me it goes back to wanting to be a teacher. More than anything, I’m about what can I do as a coach to get the players to perform at their best. That’s how I define success.” 

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Quinn is certain joining the Canadian basketball national team as an assistant under coach Victor Lapena in January has already helped her become a better coach because she’s being exposed to the international game. 

And heading into her first full season as a coach, she’s more confident in her abilities and the Storm’s chances to capture a fifth WNBA championship. 

“We had a meeting (before Seattle’s first training camp practice) and the theme or the mantra was leave no doubt,” Quinn said. “I went through the lineup with everybody in the room. … I told the rookies to leave no doubt to us as a staff that we made the right choice for them to be here. Leave no doubt in the work that they put in every day.”

Quinn had the words “Leave No Doubt” painted in the Storm’s locker room at Climate Pledge Arena and it’s the last thing players see before taking the court.